For almost a decade now, many companies (especially in consumer-related industries) have considered it important to create a new management position: a Chief Customer Officer (or Chief Experience Officer).
This new reality stems from the realization that an enterprise's customers are, in a way, its raison d'être and a fundamental asset.
No customers, no enterprise.
However, in recent years, we have noticed that this customer base is evolving and, in a way, fragmenting. Today's customers have increasingly diverse (and changing) needs and expectations and have access to more and more resources to meet them.
The role and importance of this new executive position is well described in two articles published in the prestigious Harvard Business Review, the first in April 2011 under the title The Rise of the Chief Customer Officer and the second in June 2019 under the title Why Every Company Needs a Chief Experience Officer.
In a few words, as the name suggests, a Chief Customer Officer is responsible for the quality of the experience that customers have with the company.
To fulfill this responsibility, she or he must ensure that the customer experience is at the heart of all company decisions, activities and initiatives, as well as all of the company's interactions with the public, its markets, and its current and potential customers.
She or he must therefore constantly seek ways for the company to better understand and anticipate the expectations and needs of its customers, to measure the quality of the customer experience, and to develop and constantly implement processes for the continuous improvement of the customer experience with the company.
Ultimately, a Chief Customer Officer plays a key role in maintaining and improving the company's performance with its customers.
What about a franchisor?
Certainly, like any other business, the experience of the network's customers is crucial to its commercial success.
However, a franchisor also has franchisees.
The quality of the franchisees' experience is therefore another fundamental aspect of the sustainability and success of any franchise network.
Like customers, franchisees have different needs and expectations and these needs and expectations change from one franchisee to the next.
For example, a new franchisee will have a greater need for training, support and supervision, while a more experienced franchisee will need recognition, contribution, pride and belonging.
Franchisees' needs and expectations may also depend on their culture, generation, environment and circumstances that affect the entire network (such as a pandemic), part of the network (such as a natural disaster) or a specific franchisee (such as an illness or a particularly difficult business environment).
Maintaining a quality relationship between a franchisor and its franchisees cannot be based on identical rules and operating procedures for all franchisees; the franchisor must be able to adapt its rules, services, processes and operating procedures to its franchisees’ different needs and expectations, and be able to manage them, as well as the franchisee experience, on an ongoing basis.
Since franchisees are at the very heart of a franchise network's success, managing the relationship between the franchisor and its franchisees is therefore a fundamental activity for any franchisor.
At a first level, the people who are in direct daily contact with the franchisees must have the skills, training and abilities necessary to adequately fulfill their role. In this regard, we invite you to read our bulletin entitled The Area Manager; A Key Role In Any Franchise Network.
Beyond the area managers, just as for the management of the relationship with the network's clients, the relationship between the franchisor and its franchisees must be managed under the responsibility of an executive of the franchisor, a Chief Franchisee Experience Officer.
Firstly, this Chief Franchisee Experience Officer oversees the recruitment, selection, training and management of the network's area managers, who are the franchisor's antennas and ambassadors to its franchisees.
Secondly, the responsibilities of the Chief Franchisee Experience Officer also include:
- Educating all of the franchisor's officers, departments and employees on the importance of the relationship with franchisees;
- Designing and delivering training for the franchisor's executives and employees, as well as for the franchisees and their employees, on the proper management of the relationship between the franchisor and its franchisees;
- Continuous improvement of the franchisor's processes, tools and services to better meet the various needs and expectations of the franchisees;
- Continuous monitoring of each franchisee to enable the franchisor to offer support and services that are well adapted to their needs and expectations;
- The implementation, maintenance and continuous improvement of a wide range of communication, exchange and consultation tools with franchisees, both individually and collectively;
- Continuous monitoring of franchisee satisfaction with their relationship and interactions with the franchisor and with the tools, support and services they receive from the franchisor;
- The development, implementation and management of mechanisms, processes and tools to encourage franchisees’ participation in decisions and initiatives that impact their franchised businesses;
- The development, implementation and management of mechanisms, processes and tools that promote franchisee engagement;
- Researching, designing and developing new tools and initiatives to improve the franchisee experience and performance;
- Continuous improvement of franchisee performance for both the franchisee and the network.
In order to fulfill this role, the Chief Franchisee Experience Officer has to maintain ongoing contact and exchanges with the franchisees in order to fully understand their reality, needs and expectations, all within the perspective of a franchisor-franchisees strategic partnership.
Obviously, for a network with only a few franchisees, the person who fills the role and assumes the responsibilities of Chief Franchisee Experience Officer will often be an executive of the franchisor who also has other duties and responsibilities.
However, even in this case, the person fulfilling the role and responsibilities of Chief Franchisee Experience Officer should have the skills, training, abilities and time to properly fulfill this role which is critical to the quality of the franchisor-franchisees relationship and the performance of the network.
Fasken has the experience and resources to advise and assist you in all aspects of your network start-up, management and expansion, including franchisees’ relations, anywhere in the world.